I have watched drummer Alain Koetsier perform over the last year and his credentials on the traps are unimpeachable. Alain is a drummer with a modern feel and it is plain to see why so many of our top Jazz groups utilise him. This was probably his first outing as leader and he had chosen wisely on two fronts. His band mates were consummate professionals and their approach to the music was intuitive. They interacted as if with one mind. The second thing Alain did well was to select a set list of recent compositions by New Zealand Jazz Musicians. I liked the concept.
People expect a band to play their own originals but when a set list focuses on a wider spectrum of Kiwi Jazz compositions it feels respectful. It somehow lifts the tunes to another level of availability; a place of wider appreciation. Doing this is a good start point in identifying our own ‘standards’ and some of the tunes played could well reach that bench mark. As the scene continues to mature this will surely happen.
I was pleased to hear two tunes which had impressed me at recent gigs; ‘Dicey Moments’ by Oli Holland and the wonderful ‘Ancestral Dance’ by Nathan Haines. Both of these new compositions are distinctive, clever and memorable. Dixon Nacey compositions also catch the attention as he has a knack for locating the right hooks while providing a solid base for improvisation.The first set had contained ‘Bad Lamb’ (Dixon Nacey). The tune had nice chordal voicings and the way it unfolded led us easily into the heart of the tune.
Another memorable number was ‘Tree Hugger’ by the Auckland-born bass player Matt Penman. Matt has moved into the upper echelons of Jazz bass, occupying a respected place on the world scene. Maybe he will return the compliment one day and acquaint North America with a few of the other compositions.
The gig was fun to experience and obviously fun to play as the musicians enjoyment of what they were doing was easy to discern. Like many Jazz gigs there was a high degree of spontaneity and perhaps this came from being thrown in at the deep end. Working musicians seldom have a lot of time to rehearse and when confronted by complex charts they appear to relish the prospect.
The musician that I was unfamiliar with was Pete France on tenor. I know that he has played the CJC before and my friends tell me that they had hoped for his return one day. His tone is rich and full and his improvised lines meaningful. He is also relaxed on the bandstand and when you consider the calibre of his band mates this ease of manner speaks volumes.
The band featured Oli Holland on bass. His approach and focus drew you in inexorably as he demonstrated chops, impeccable timing and melodic invention. His skills are considerable, as he can move from contrapuntal walking bass to melodic invention in an eye blink. Oli gave his best, but then he always dies.
Lastly I come to Dixon Nacey. His playing is widely appreciated throughout the NZ Jazz scene. As good as he is, he always strives to do better. His compositions sing to us and his chordal work and rapidly executed lines astound. It is good to be in a town where this man is playing and long may it continue.
Well done Alain – more please.